Raiders fans make relocation issue a nation case
They came in spikes and shoulder pads, masks, face paint and at least one Native American headdress. About 400 fans of the Oakland Raiders gathered at the historic Paramount Theater on Thursday night for the NFL’s third and final public hearing on relocation.
Three cities in three nights — St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland — with four league executives listening to the grievances, pleas and memories of fans who are concerned their football team will relocate to Los Angeles.
Although there was some expectation the Oakland meeting could be as raucous as the Black Hole, the famed section of rollicking Raiders fans at games, the hearing was orderly but for the occasional catcall. At one point, at the urging of a commenter, the fans rose, formed “O’s” with their arms and recited every line of “The Autumn Wind,” the Raiders’ unofficial anthem.
By a count of reporters, there were 382 attendees in the cavernous theater, not counting media or league officials. The NFL said there were about 60 more people who entered mid-meeting.
According to the NFL, the St. Louis crowd was about 800, and San Diego was roughly 450.
There were lecterns on either side of the stage from which fans made their comments and asked their questions of the league executives: Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president: Chris Hardart, vice president of corporate development; Cynthia Hogan, senior vice president of public policy; and league attorney Jay Bauman.
The Oakland hearing was unique in that it was attended by a team owner. The Raiders’ Mark Davis got a standing ovation when he stood on stage and welcomed fans to the event, then took a seat among the fans to watch the three-hour proceedings. Early in the hearing, a commenter directed a question to Davis: “We’ve had your back. ... Do you have ours now?”
In response, Davis stood and walked to the lectern.
“We need help from the community as well to get something that our fans and the NFL can be proud of. We don’t have that right now,” Davis said. He added: “We’ve been trying for at least the past six years, every day, hundreds of hours, people in this organization trying to get something done.”
The Raiders have teamed with the AFC West-rival Chargers to back a stadium concept in Carson. The Rams have a competing stadium plan in Inglewood.
“I have a hard time believing that a town hall meeting like this that was conjured up a week ago is going to have any say in a multibillion-dollar business deal,” said Ray Perez, who goes by “Dr. Death,” has silver-and-black face paint, and a hard hat adorned with a Mohawk of fake knives.
“We are here to do our part, like everybody else did in San Diego and St. Louis. I don’t expect anything more than, ‘We did our job. We were your therapist for three hours. We wrote some stuff down.’”
As was the case in the other two cities, many of the comments and questions were aimed at convincing the league that Oakland is a viable market that deserves to keep its team.
Said one commenter to cheers and laughter: “I’ve taken my son to more Raider games that I’ve taken him to church.”
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